By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – Malaysia is studying the possibility of exporting raw agricultural materials and minerals from Mindanao to support the massive expansion of its manufacturing sector, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE)-Manila Commissioner Siti Azlina said on Wednesday.
At the Malaysia-Philippines Business Forum at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao on Wednesday, Azlina said the manufacturing firms are looking at sourcing raw materials, particularly raw agricultural products and minerals, from Mindanao, following the massive expansion of Malaysian industries.
She said manufacturing propelled the country’s economy, the second largest after Singapore in Southeast Asia.
The trade official added that Malaysia has made great strides in transforming its economy from being an agricultural nation back in the 1970’s to an economy built upon services, industry, and manufacturing at present.
“Basically, the Malaysian economy has transformed from agriculture and manufacturing now. One of the areas we can do business with the Philippines or Mindanao is basically to find raw materials, be it agricultural produce or minerals that we can process through our manufacturing back in Malaysia,” Azlina said.
She added Malaysia and the Philippines have built a strong trade partnership for several years. This time, she said Malaysia looks to Visayas and Mindanao for business opportunities, as most of the existing economic activities between the two nations are concentrated in Luzon.
Malaysia’s total trade with the Philippines last year reached $6.45 billion, an increase of 2.1% from $5.93 recorded in 2017.
Malaysia’s export to the Philippines consisted largely of electrical & electronic products, palm oil and palm-based agricultural products, chemicals and chemical products, petroleum products and machinery, equipment and parts. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s imports from the Philippines are electrical and electronic products, machinery, equipment and parts, processed food, natural rubber and chemical and chemical products.
“We have been doing business with Philippines. We have concentrated in Luzon area. It is very timely now that we will also look into Visayas and Mindanao, what more with Mindanao which is in close proximity to Sabah and Serawak,” she added.
Mindanao is considered a strategic area within the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), a 25-year old sub-regional economic cooperation initiative in Southeast Asia designed to spur economic development.
Founded in 1994 in Davao City, the focus areas of BIMP-EAGA include the entire sultanate of Brunei Darussalam; the provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, West Papua and Papua in Indonesia; the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in Malaysia; and Mindanao and the province of Palawan in the Philippines.
Azlina said there should be more activities in the BIMP-EAGA.
The one-day business mission in Davao intends to explore opportunities in food and beverages, cosmetic, information communications technology (ICT), construction, and logistics, according to Azlina.